Penumbra Theatre Company was founded in 1976 by Lou Bellamy as a
venue for African American voices within the Twin Cities theatre
scene and has stood for more than thirty-five years at the
intersection of art, culture, politics, and local community
engagement. It has helped launch the careers of many
internationally respected theatre artists and has been repeatedly
recognized for its artistic excellence as the nation's foremost
African American theatre.
Penumbra is the first-ever history of this
barrier-breaking institution. Based on extensive interviews with
actors, directors, playwrights, producers, funders, and critics,
Macelle Mahala's book offers a multifaceted view of the theatre and
its evolution. Penumbra follows the company's emergence
from the influential Black Arts and settlement house movements; the
pivotal role Penumbra played in the development of August Wilson's
career and, in turn, how Wilson became an avid supporter and
advocate throughout his life; the annual production of Black
Nativity as a community-building performance; and the
difficult economics of African American theatre production and how
Penumbra has faced these challenges for nearly four decades.
Penumbra is a testament to how a theatre can respond to
and thrive within changing political and cultural realities while
contributing on a national scale to the African American presence
on the American stage. It is a celebration of theatre as a means of
social and cultural involvement-both local and national-and
ultimately, of Penumbra's continuing legacy of theatre that is
vibrant, diverse, and vital.
Subjects: Language & Literature, History
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